FERRISBURGH — A fire that started at about 10 o’clock on Sunday night burned to the ground the rear third of a Route 7 building in Ferrisburgh and badly damaged the rest of it. The conflagration destroyed many valuable tractors, cars and equipment stored there, and it is forcing a marine sales and service business renting space there — Eriksen’s Crow’s Nest Marina — to relocate.
This was the third major fire in Ferrisburgh’s central village area in the past decade. The Ferrisburgh Grange burned to the ground in February 2005 and the Ferrisburgh Roadhouse restaurant (formerly Burdick’s Country Kitchen) burned in June 2007.
Ferrisburgh Fire Chief Bill Wager could not be immediately reached on Monday to comment on how the fire started or provide details on fighting it.
Building owner Peter Hawkins said that at the end of the day on Friday he had shut off electric power to the rear of the building, which was used for storage and machine work.
Ferrisburgh firefighters were alerted to the blaze by a neighbor on Sunday evening and were there promptly, but found the rear of the three-part structure already ablaze.
Soon they were joined by firefighters from many other local departments, and Vermont State Police rerouted traffic off Route 7 from about 11 p.m. on Sunday to about 5 a.m. on Monday while firefighters fought the blaze.
Hawkins said he used the back two parts of the structure mostly for storage, while the business rented the front third. A cinderblock firewall partially protected the front two-thirds, but the fire did jump into the attics of those parts of the building, and they also suffered varying degrees of fire, smoke and water damage.
Reduced to charred remains were the building’s back third and the belongings of Hawkins and a half-dozen other residents.
On Monday morning smoke still curled up from the blackened hulks of one 10-year-old and several antique tractors, a 1942 road grader that had seen recent work, a Bobcat, a bucket loader, a Corvette, a recently restored 1969 Ford Mustang, a drill press, a welder, a fork lift, lawn mowers, a row of tool boxes, and even a collection of antique license plates.
Hawkins’ brother Chet Hawkins, Ferrisburgh’s town clerk, lives next door to the building. He said when he first saw the blaze that flames reached 50 feet into the air and the building’s siding had already been burned away, leaving the stick-built frame exposed and engulfed.
Before firefighters could put it out, the fire on the rear third — fueled by oil and gasoline in many of the pieces of equipment and vehicles — began to melt some siding on an addition to the rear of Chet Hawkins’ home.
Once the major blaze in the back was out, firefighters then learned it had penetrated the front of the structure, and it became a long night because of difficult access to the attics, the Hawkins brothers said. One Ferrisburgh firefighter told the Independentthat he got home from the fire after 6 a.m. this morning.
Peter Hawkins said he had at least some insurance and would try to rebuild so that he could keep tinkering, but he did not expect the marine business to return to the front third of the building because the business owner could share space with a relative elsewhere in Ferrisburgh.
Both men praised the work of firefighters.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More details and interviews with Peter and Chet Hawkins will appear in Thursday’s edition of the Addison Independent.